Let's get caught up, shall we?
*On his honeymoon, Carlos Correa called Jeff Luhnow to ask about the trade rumors, Luhnow told him to get back to being a married man and not worry about [waves hands] all that. Luhnow, on 2020:
We'll probably be favored to win our division, depending on what happens, and have a chance to go deep in the playoffs again. Last year we lost Charlie and Dallas and we were able to get back to the World Series, so we're going to have to reload. That's part of operating as a successful baseball operation. You've got to plug in for the pieces you lose every year and losing pieces is inevitable. This isn't going to be the last year. It's going to continue. That's why we work so hard to find the next version of hopefully Gerrit Cole that we can bring in...and someday he may leave.
*Luhnow would like to add a catcher (Chirinos and Jason Castro make the most sense, in which a whole bunch of us will have to go back and scrub some tweets if the Astros reunite with Castro), a starting pitcher, and a reliever. Chandler Rome wrote up how the Astros now have a limited pool with which to work behind the plate. Garrett Stubbs, one of the two backup catchers on the 40-Man Roster, will play some infield this spring, a season after playing some outfield.
*The Astros have apparently received a ton of interest in Abraham Toro, while the Astros have allegedly asked the Dodgers about catcher Austin Barnes.
*The Astros lost three players in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday: pitcher Brandon Bailey (Baltimore), pitcher Yohan Ramirez (Seattle), and infielder Jonathan Arauz (Boston).
-Bailey, 25, had a nice season in Corpus, striking out 103 batters in 92.2IP with a 3.30 ERA / 1.22 WHIP. He came to the Astros in the Ramon Laureano trade so, I guess you can chalk that win up to Oakland (though there wasn't exactly room for Laureano in the outfield at the time, or at the present, so...whatever).
-24-year old Yohan Ramirez split time between Fayetteville and Corpus and put up really impressive strikeout numbers (158 in 106IP), but walked 6.3 batters per nine innings.
-21-year old Jonathan Arauz has consistently played at levels in the minors 2-3 years younger than his competition. He's generally been ticketed as a glove-first guy, but didn't hit a whole lot between Fayetteville and Corpus in 2019 (.249/.319/.388 in 473 PAs). Arauz came to Houston in the Ken Giles trade.
Baltimore taking Bailey makes a lot of sense because they're where the Astros were in the depths of their rebuild, and Mike Elias knows the Astros' system really well. The Mariners taking Ramirez makes a lot of sense because it had been about 15 minutes since Jerry Dipoto had acquired literally anything (the latest being "Pizza for Cash Considerations"). The chances of the Red Sox turning a 21-year old .700 OPS guy into Dustin Pedroia in 2020 seem remote, but with carrying the extra active roster spot, I guess there's a chance. Don't get too broken up about losing these guys. You can't keep everybody and, if you care about these dudes on a personal level, well, they're probably in a better spot in regards to their Major League careers. And, whose spot are they going to take on the Astros in the near future, anyway?
We thought we'd lose one or two, and we lost three. I don't use the word, 'loss.' I think we have three guys taken and we don't count them as a loss until they stick on the roster all year for the big league teams that took them.
There are a couple of scouting report write-ups on the Rule 5 picks at FanGraphs. The Astros didn't take anyone in the Rule 5 Draft because it's not 2013.
*Long-time Dodgers reporter Molly Knight has a piece in The Athletic about how the Astros' silence regarding the Sign-Stealing Scandal is reflective of their guilt. It's...something. I tended to think that their silence showed that the investigation was still ongoing but to each their own. Knight:
Hinch seemed somber and defeated. His shoulders hunched forward in protection as tiny sweat droplets formed on his forehead. During what were probably among the most uncomfortable 19 minutes of his career, Hinch didn't appear anxious. He just looked resigned.
St. Louis hitting coach Jeff Albert, who was the Astros' minor-league hitting coordinator in 2017, was interviewed by MLB, which is an impressive amount of detail. MLB is reviewing 76,000 emails as well as telephone records with over 70 in-person interviews as they try to find evidence of a loss of "institutional control" by the front office. SI notes (previous link) that the investigation could wrap up in January. Can't wait. LA Times:
It is considered unlikely that the league would strip the Astros of their World Series title. Fines, suspensions, and the loss of draft picks are among other possible sanctions.
I would welcome the opportunity to open my front door and find Rob Manfred standing there demanding the return of all of my 2017 World Series gear.
*Mattress Mack and Alex Bregman surprised a pregnant mom of eight with $10,000 worth of furniture.
*Today would have been Larry Doby's 96th birthday. Larry Doby was the first man to integrate the American League, playing with the Cleveland Indians and hitting .283/.386/.490, led the League in home runs twice, RBIs once, and Runs Scored once. His career was good enough for a 136 OPS+ and a rightful place in the Hall of Fame.
*Things aren't looking good for disgraced baseball writer Jonah Keri. In July 2019 Keri was charged with assaulting his wife and then later breaking the conditions of the separation related to that case. Wednesday Keri received eight new charges from incidents prior to that July charge that include assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, criminal harassment, and uttering threats involving his wife and a child.
*ESPN: Inside the troubled life and death of 1994 Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam.
*The wartime spies who used knitting as an espionage tool.
*There's a new kind of inequality, and it's not about income.
*The gore, guts, and horror of an NFL fumble pile.
*A Musical Selection:
The Hot Links Music playlist is at 247 songs lasting over 15.5 hours. After the last six weeks of being an Astros fan, there are days I wish this was just a music blog.